By Joseph Saldanha
“When I am in Bombay, I stare at the bottles, here in Goa, the bottles stare at me, says Presidency Magistrate from Bombay”, he told a newspaper reporter when visiting Goa in the prohibition era, which promptly appeared in the newspapers in Bombay. It was, but an example of Gerry’s wit, and his outspokenness.
G J “Gerry” Saldanha (1907-1984) was the President of the KCA in 1950-1951, Vice-President in 1963-1966, and President in 1966-1969.
The son of Jerome Saldanha, a well-known judge, patriot, follower of Mahatma Gandhi, and MLC from Mangalore, Gerry studied at St. Aloysius College, and then at the Bombay Law College. He practiced criminal law in Bombay and Poona. He was a dynamic speaker, and as a young lawyer, appeared before the Privy Council in London in 1942.
In 1951, he was appointed Presidency Magistrate, and endeared himself with his humane approach to litigants and accused, with his fluent Pune Marathi, and his ever present wit lightened the courtroom atmosphere, and he was popular with the bar and the bench.
At the KCA, he was, together with many supporters in Bombay and Mangalore, instrumental in raising money from well-known Mangalorean donors, as well as those of more modest means to take the KCA Hall and Yuvakalaya Hostel in Bandra from a dream to a reality. With backing from the community, at his instance, the KCA took on debt, which was paid off over time. He was undaunted by the magnitude of the task before him because he was not one to be deterred by challenges. By sheer determination, dedication, and hard work, he guided the KCA in achieving its goal. Today, the KCA Hall is a gathering place that the community can call its own, and Yuvakalaya is a place for young men, from different parts of the country, to start and advance their career.
His love for open space made him an active member of the ‘Save Bombay’ and ‘Save Bandra’ campaigns, and he succeeded in getting the intervention of Indira Gandhi in stopping an International Banking Institute from coming up on the waterfront of Carter Road in Bandra.
He was an ardent supporter of the Agnel Ashram and Technical Institute in Bandra, serving on its Board of Governors. He supported the Ashram through its difficult times, securing again the support of Indira Gandhi, who memorably, once had her motorcade diverted from its originally planned route, in order to visit the Ashram.
He helped a number of co-operative societies in Bombay, Mahabaleshwar, and Nasik. The Belmont Society in Mahabaleshwar, later named a road after him in their Society.
But most of all, he is remembered for his willingness to help people from all classes, religions, and communities who came to his house daily for help and guidance on legal, personal, and family matters, free of cost. His simplicity, sincerity, dignity, and willingness to speak up for the downtrodden is what is most remembered of Gerald J Saldanha.
His children, Joseph Saldanha and Elizabeth Tilak, now in Canada and the United States, thank Eric D’Sa and the KCA for remembering Gerald J Saldanha.